Friday, March 12, 2010

Geometry Wars Evolved² (a.k.a. Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2)

Because who really wants to play Algebra Wars?

Platform: Xbox 360 (Arcade)
Published by: Activision
Developed by: Bizarre Creations
Genre: Shooter
Players: 1-4
US Release Date: July 30, 2008
ESRB Rating: Everyone

Story: You control a spaceship. Evil, neon, glowing shapes are floating through space, trying to crash into, and ultimately kill you. You have laser blasters. Go.

Graphics: If you ever wondered (for whatever reason) what playing the game "Asteroids" on mild hallucinogens would be like, then look no further. Menus are simple in design and easy to navigate. The game screen is littered with constant multicolored explosions as you destroy your enemies with flashing laser blasts and bombs. Your ship and enemies are basic outlines of geometric shapes - the graphics themselves are barely a step above an Atari 2600. Despite this graphical simplicity, the flashing, glowing, neon dynamic of the visuals definitely adds a level of excitement and chaos to the whole experience; unfortunately, this same dynamic sometimes overwhelms the senses in the same way a strobe light in a dark room can. Overall, however, this game is incredibly fun to watch, and appropriately arcade-y.

Unless you enjoy seizing, I highly-recommend any epileptics to stay far away from this game.

Beyond the sounds of your laser blaster's "pew pew," and the inevitable "boom" of your ship exploding, there's not a whole lot on this game's soundboard. The soundtrack consists of various techno/electronica tunes, with thumping bass and ambient synthesizer loops - fitting background music for a high-speed shooter, but nothing you'd find DJ Tiësto spinning in a club. In other words, it's ultimately forgettable, albeit appropriate for an XBLA entry.

Gameplay: I personally haven't played any other Geometry Wars incarnations, but I am told that the gameplay has remained virtually identical from version to version. While I can see how some find this notion stale, I like to live by the motto "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Especially for those new to the series (as I was), Geometry Wars Evolved² offers plenty of exciting, unique challenges - six modes of ball-busting madness are available to unlock, as well as an addicting local multiplayer mode for up to four people (although I would have really liked if the multiplayer was online as well). Each mode offers its own challenges and unique spin on the basic gameplay mechanics. The controls are some of the most user-friendly on the system, allowing almost anyone (sorry, one-armed man from "The Fugitive") to just pick up a controller and play. The object of the game is so tried-and-true that it should be ingrained in the minds of every gamer out there: bad guys appear on the screen; use laser beams to kill the bad guys; don't die. However, the ridiculously-steep level of challenge will turn many gamers off: this game ramps up the difficulty almost TOO quickly, and without any warning. There are moments where the screen will become so saturated with enemies and particle effects, you will rely solely on luck to survive. You will die. A lot. But chances are you'll have more than enough fun to come back for additional servings of punishment. And let me tell you, this game can really dish it out.

The number of expletives I've uttered while playing the mode "Sequence" (shown above) has definitely broken some sort of world record.

Overall: Playing this game is a lot like stepping into a nightclub - you'll be bombarded by flashing lights, loud techno music, and who can forget the giant, floating shapes trying to kill you? This game will frustrate you beyond words, but therein lies some of its ironic beauty: how can something so incredibly basic (i.e. move ship, shoot bad guys, win game) manage to generate so many challenges? As a gaming society, we're used to blowing away our enemies with super-charged weapons against highly-detailed backdrops; Geometry Wars Evolved² strips away everything that it doesn't deem essential, leaving only the naked gameplay to interact with. Geometry Wars Evolved² will grow on you, and you will find yourself replaying its game modes over and over again in desperate attempts to best your high scores or unlock its insane achievements (like just making it through the near-impossible mode "Sequence"). It's the type of game that doesn't fall back on a lot of needless gimmicks, rather hearkening back to the coin-operated arcade machine era. Just like those games of yesteryear, Geometry Wars Evolved² is fast, challenging, and most of all fun in its simplest of forms.

Score (out of 10): 8

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